After talking to your patients about their health, and completing an assessment of their fitness for work, you should consider what referral options are available to support their specific needs.
The NHS doesn’t offer a specialist referral service for assessment and investigation of occupational diseases. However, your local NHS occupational health department will be able to offer some advice on an informal basis.
You could consider referring your patients to specialists, mentioning that you’re considering an occupational cause or exacerbation of your patients’ medical conditions. They may have an interest or expertise in occupational diseases – such as a dermatologist with a particular interest in occupational skin conditions or an ENT doctor with a specialism in noise-induced hearing loss – or a colleague who can help.
Occupational health referral
Many large employers, and small and medium sized employers with higher risk working environments, will have occupational health provided internally or through an external company.
You could ask your patients to request a referral to their occupational health service, or add a recommendation to their fit note that “specialist occupational health assessment would be beneficial”. This would trigger a referral by the employer.
Fit for Work referral
Fit for Work allows patients to speak to an occupational health professional and access a work-focused assessment for return to work recommendations.
With their consent, you will soon be able to refer your patients into the service if they have been, or are likely to be, off work for four weeks or more. A practical step-by-step Return to Work Plan will be produced and tailored to your patients’ needs, to help them return to work in a way that is right for them.
Find out more about Fit for Work.